Westworld: Classic Kanye’s masterpiece

Westworld%3A+Classic+Kanye%27s+masterpiece

Braden Hajer, Copy Editor & Columnist

TL;DRLateRegistration

“Late Registration” is a breathtaking project. Kanye West’s sophomore album, released in 2005, improves and expands on every single facet of “The College Dropout:” the songs are tighter, the skits funnier, the production cleaner, the instrumentals grander, the lyrics more potent. It has no consistent shortcomings, its only real missteps being individual tracks. But even then, “Late Registration” doesn’t have a single “bad” song on it. It doesn’t get much better than this project.

Rating: S (super, higher than an A – ratings explained in the chart below)

Favorite Tracks: “Heard ‘Em Say,” “Gold Digger,” “Roses,” “Hey Mama”

 

It’s fascinating, honestly: this is only the second installment of Westworld, and yet I already have to review one of my favorite Kanye West albums. West’s sophomore project, “Late Registration” (2005), comes in at 69 minutes and 21 tracks, four of them being skits and one being a bonus track.

There is no perfect Kanye West album… but my god, this one comes close. I’ll be honest, I have no overarching criticisms of this project.

The unique problem of track-boredom from Kanye’s debut is completely eliminated from this project. I still can’t pinpoint why it existed in the first place, so logically I can’t explain why it disappeared, but it felt like an important footnote.

A similarly brief improvement to note surrounds the more concrete problem on the production/organizational front. There are no clumped skits and no questionable production decisions. “Late Registration” is smooth as butter and flows perfectly.

Speaking of skits, where on “The College Dropout” they made little impact beyond just breaking up tracks, on “Late Registration” I find them to be legitimately hilarious. They’re all connected to each other and integrated thematically to the tracks near them, a legitimately impressive feat. I’ll keep my comments brief, because what’s the point of a skit if you know the joke?

The instrumentals on this album are unbelievable. From the lush grandiosity of “Bring Me Down” and “We Major” to the soft emotions of “Roses” and “Hey Mama” to the bouncy fun of “Gold Digger” and “Gone,” “Late Registration” is on a whole other level compared to nearly every other Kanye West project. Even as I write this review, I’m noticing more details in so many of these tracks (for example, the transitioning “blip” sound 50 seconds into “Celebration”).

Choosing which songs to discuss in detail is a legitimate difficulty, because I truly could go on ad infinitum. I’ve decided two of the highlights and two tracks that stumble a bit more to prevent this from becoming a novel.

“Gold Digger” is one of Kanye West’s most well-known tracks, and for good reason. The Jamie Foxx vocal line is used phenomenally, and West’s flow can’t be rivaled. The song’s subject is unique and intriguing (a gold digger, shockingly). It’s remarkably catchy, and I find a number of the lines to be nearly laugh-out-loud funny. Some of my favorites include “You will see him on TV any given Sunday/win the Superbowl and drive off in a Hyundai” and “If you ain’t no punk, holla ‘We Want Prenup!’” The instrumental switch-up in the final portion of the song is expertly done: the saxophone line alone raises this song to the top of Kanye’s discography.

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“Late Registration” receives an S ranking, which is superior to an A. An explanation of this ranking system is available in Hajer’s Westworld introduction piece, linked above. Graphic by Braden Hajer

“Roses” is one of my favorite songs of all time. It’s so fantastic I fear saying too much. The brassy bass, West’s chilling lyricism, the unparalleled vocal performances and top-notch production all contribute to a gorgeous and truly perfect composition. The first verse in particular is too good for words to describe. Something about the way the bass and West bounce off each other gives me legitimate goosebumps. If you get anything out of any of these reviews, please let it be a listen to “Roses.”

Though I don’t believe this album has a single bad track on it, several are weaker than the rest.

One of them directly precedes “Roses,” entitled “Crack Music.” I find the beat to be just a little bit too repetitive, and the chorus is both barren and too frequent. Certain lines stand out, but most of it is just… fine. Despite all of this, the last minute of the song absolutely saves it. The strings line that comes in for the last chorus elevates the energy significantly and transitions into a legitimate high point. This ending verse is basically slam poetry, but it’s captivating and delivered emphatically. It’s a bit of a slog to get to, but by the end the song is ultimately a positive experience.

“Addiction” is a song of paranoid purgatory. The instrumentation is… strange, but effective. The combination of the somewhat-awkward vocal sample, the bongos and the looping guitar (?) line creates a unique ambience that while well-executed is somewhat unappealing. West’s vocal performance is thematically consistent with all of this, but it all adds up to a… weird experience. It’s admittedly a little catchy, and it’s phenomenal at creating the tone it’s going for, but I still find it to be a tier below most of the other tracks on the album.

“Late Registration” is a masterpiece. The album is well over an hour in length, yet I never get tired of it. It’s packed with hit after hit, banger after banger. It’s a project I love, and one I’d argue is West’s most widely-appealing. Where I think that my other S-tier albums (which are both on the horizon for review) are both almost acquired tastes, “Late Registration” simply has great songs. For this reason, there is no Kanye album I recommend more highly than this one.

Where does “Late Registration” rate among your favorite Kanye West projects? Find me on Twitter @bhajerCT @centraltimes and use the hashtag #KanyeWestworld in your response.

Be sure to join me next week for my reviews of “Graduation” and “808s and Heartbreak.” 

Happy listening!

Audio and video clips contain explicit content and are property of Universal Music Group, 2005.